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News / Clark County News

Press Talk: Celebrate those who build community

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor
Published: April 2, 2016, 6:00am

The crowd came gently into the night to honor a man they trusted and respected. A man who helped guide a community he loved.

Last Saturday — with a cool, wet drizzle falling on the historic Pearson airfield — more than 200 came forward to say goodbye to John McKibbin.

By now, most of you know the story. John — an avid private flier and prominent local figure — tragically died last week when his private plane went down in the Columbia River. His passenger, Irene Mustain, also died in the crash.

Shortly after his body was recovered, a vigil — a celebration of his life — was held at the airfield.

It was gratifying to see that so many came to honor him. As I stood there that evening, I couldn’t help but think just how special this community is.

I believe there is a larger community story to be told through John’s special life.

Community, you see, is much more than a bunch of houses and businesses and people all mashed together. To make a vibrant community — sort of like making a vibrant soup — you need the right ingredients.

The first ingredient is passion. People need to care. And let’s be upfront about this passionate caring. It sometimes means disagreement.

For example, John and I didn’t always agree on the issues facing our community. That’s OK. But the key in any discussion — dare I say argument — is not to always come to an agreement but rather to walk away from a disagreement with respect for that opposing view.

As I stood in the light rain, I looked around to spot some of the faces I knew. Many of them belonged to those with whom I agreed — and disagreed — on various issues.

I saw Vancouver city Councilors Bart Hansen and Anne McEnerny-Ogle, state Sen. Ann Rivers, county council Chair Marc Boldt, state Rep. Lynda Wilson and port Commissioner Brian Wolfe.

Despite our occasional differences, we were never disagreeable. Why? Because being disagreeable destroys any hope of uniting together to achieve a common goal.

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What else? To reach a common goal often means a community needs to unite behind a common struggle. Struggle brings a community together. And frankly, the more painful that struggle is, the closer the community will become.

Another ingredient? A gathering place to discuss the issues. In years past, it often was coffee houses, recreation centers and churches. All are still important, but today social media has created virtual gathering places.

And The Columbian — for years — has been one place for all of us to get together. There are others, of course.

Finally, a community needs a leader. Someone to bring it all together. That leader doesn’t have to be the same person all the time for all the issues.

That’s where I believe someone like John came in. That’s where many of the others I mentioned all have come in.

There are hundreds of others, of course. And many more who just now are coming into their own. We likely don’t even know their names.

So there will always be room for leaders. Particularly as the challenges we face multiply. Experts — leaders — in a variety of topics will be needed.

Yes, we need to keep in mind that too many cooks will indeed spoil that soup we’re hoping to perfect. But as a community, we can figure this out. We can figure out who should lead us on what issues.

John was one of those leaders. And as we celebrate John, let’s celebrate all those who believe in our community.

Our future depends on it.

Columbian Editor